Woman recalls MLK

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Opp’s own witness to history Corine Crayton shared her experiences helping two of Civil Rights biggest champions.

“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places shall be made straight and the glory of the lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall sit together.”

Many can attribute that to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” but Crayton, 95, knew the man himself.

She would come to know Dr. King through her college friend Juanita Jones.

Jones and Crayton met while in college at Selma University.

The duo went their separate ways – Crayton went to Georgia to take nursing classes and Jones moved to Nashville.

Crayton found herself in Montgomery at Alabama State University.

By then, Juanita had married Linden native Ralph Abernathy, a minister and civil rights activist.

Soon, the pair were reunited in the Capital City.

The Abernathys wanted Crayton to tutor their children.

Crayton said she initially didn’t want to but said she was eventually persuaded to help.

One day, she said Ralph Abernathy showed up at her house and insisted he help watch their children so he could go up north to preach a revival.

He said that Juanita had not left their house since a bombing of their home.

While Crayton watched the Abernathy children, three youngster from Tennessee came into town on a bus – a white boy, a white girl and a black boy.

She said the boys were severely beaten when they got off the bus, and word got around that they were being taken to St. Margaret’s Hospital in Montgomery.

A friend of Crayton’s who had been jailed, called her and requested her assistance.

“We rode to St. Margaret’s,” she said. “I was told the boys were not there, and was able to find out that they had been taken to St. Jude.”

Crayton said she knew that the Abernathys’ phone had been tapped by the Montgomery Police Department, but she discreetly let Ralph Abernathy know it was important for him to come back to Montgomery, as soon as possible.

“I called Ralph to tell him I thought he should come home,” she said. “He asked me to call Martin and ask him to come from Atlanta.”

Once Dr. King and Rev. Abernathy returned to Montgomery, they got to wrk.

“They went to different churches telling them what to do,” she said. “They went to churches every night.”

King put Crayton in charge of answering the phone and the door.

“I always called him Dr. King and he always called me Miss Crayton,” she said. “One day, he said, ‘Why are you so professional? You always say, ‘Dr. King this and Dr. King that. I’m Martin.’ So, I told him, ‘I’m Corine.’ ”

Crayton said that people would call and ask if King was in Montgomery and they would want to know where he was. She wouldn’t tell them.

Crayton said that when foot soldiers went from Selma to Montgomery, she took sandwiches to them at St. Jude.

In 2015, at 90 years old Crayton attended the 50th anniversary celebration of the Selma to Montgomery march.

At 90, she walked a mile a day during the celebration.